Over-the-counter painkillers found ineffective for lower back pain, harmful for liver, but may help in osteoarthritis

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Pain Management | Sunday, July 03, 2016 - 09:30 AM

lower-back-painToday, millions of Americans suffer from chronic back pain or damaged joints – what’s also known as osteoarthritis. The condition is not only challenging to diagnose, but difficult to treat. That’s because there are many causes and contributing factors, and a host of treatments that may or may not work at all.

For example, acetaminophen, which is marketed under brand names like Tylenol, Mapap, and Panadol, recently was found to be ineffective in the treatment of lower back pain in particular. And it provides little or no value for osteoarthritis in the hip or knee, according to the study published in the BMJ.

Because drug options for chronic back pain and osteoarthritis are shrinking, researchers recommend the use of more natural or more physical treatments. More often than not, these can make all the difference.

The new research comes from reviews of 13 randomized controlled tests to investigate how well acetaminophen performs in treating lower back pain. After researchers reviewed the tests, they concluded that pain-relieving drugs show no significant improvement in dealing with lower back pain.

Worse yet, the researchers also uncovered that not only were these types of drugs ineffective, but they also led to abnormal results on the patients’ liver function. What you’re taking frequently for your pain could be harming your liver!

This furthers the notion that over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can pose a risk to your health.

Tips to manage lower back pain and osteoarthritis naturally

With no added benefits in taking OTCs and warnings of dangerous side effects, seeking out natural alternatives is greatly advised. If you’re looking to get to the root of your back pain and OTCs have failed you up until this point, these natural tips can be effective in easing the pain.

Work out the muscles. The muscles in your abdominals and back normally don’t get enough of a workout. In fact, 58 percent of people with back pain wished they had done more back-strengthening exercises. But the good news is, there are simple exercises that can be performed in about 20 minutes a day.

Here’s an example of a back-strengthening exercise. Lie stomach down on the floor – make sure you put a mat down! With arms stretched out in front of you, raise your arms and legs up – you’re aiming to look like the bottom of a boat. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax and come back down. Completing this exercise a few times a day can work out your entire back.

Try hamstring exercises. Tight hamstrings place additional stress across the lower back and what’s known as the sacroiliac joint, and this leads to more pain. To help alleviate lower back pain, gently stretch your hamstrings twice a day. It’s one of the easiest things you can do!

A simple hamstring stretch involves bending at the knee and bringing your foot toward your rear end. Hold on to your foot so you can feel the stretch in your hamstring. At first, if you can’t balance on one foot, hold on to a chair for support. Picking a spot to stare at will help with balance as well.

Incorporate cold therapy. Cold application has two primary benefits: It decreases inflammation, which usually happens with back pain, and acts as a local anesthetic by simply slowing down nerve impulses. This keeps the nerves from spasms and causing pain. Simple, affordable ways to relieve back pain or osteoarthritis are homemade ice and gel packs.

Incorporate heat therapy. On the other hand, heat application stimulates blood flow, which in turn transfers healing nutrients to the affected area of the lower back. Basically, it inhibits the pain messages that are sent directly to the brain. Heat can come in many forms, of course, and it’s best to try different ones to discover what’s best for you. But you can try taking a hot bath or shower, soaking in a hot tub, or using a heating pad, hot water bottle, or wrap – whatever provides continuous, low-level heat.

Just do normal things. Finally, you can make chronic back pain or osteoarthritis more tolerable simply by doing the very activities that make you feel good every day – things like walking the dog, drinking a nice cup of coffee, talking on the phone with a friend, or receiving a 30-second hug from a partner or family member.

Because many other problems coincide with chronic lower back pain or osteoarthritis, anything you can do for yourself – especially something natural and physical – will bring you significant relief in the long run.


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Sources:

http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1225

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